CAConrad in the studio

PennSound podcast #55

CAConrad. Photo by Dogface Studios of Olympia.
CAConrad. Photo by Dogface Studios of Olympia.


CAConrad returned to the Kelly Writers House on January 27, 2016, to visit the Wexler Studio to speak with Julia Bloch and to read from ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness, which appeared from Wave Books in 2014, as well as a number of new works generated from his ongoing performative and pedagogical practice of somatics and ecopoetics. CAConrad grew up in Pennsylvania and is the author of seven books, including ECODEVIANCE A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, The Book of Frank, and Advanced Elvis Course, all of which explore the place of poetry in social and political life. Eileen Myles wrote in 2010 in Jacket,“he’s the poet who always changes the room he enters. He’s poetry’s answer to relational aesthetics. Which is the movement camped out now at the center of the art world in which the audience becomes the inevitable workings of the piece.”

Conrad was a 2011 Pew Fellow and a 2015 Headlands Art Fellow, and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Banff, Ucross, and RADAR. He is currently living in Asheville, North Carolina. Conrad’s commitment to a poetic practice that can manifest change is legible as much on the page as it is in the actions and community workshops he leads around the country. When asked by the Pew Center in 2014, “If you could collaborate with anyone alive today (someone you don’t know personally), who would it be?” Conrad answered, “I want to write some poems with the President of the United States, to apologize together for the millions of lives we rip to shreds with bullets, bombs, and drones. Three children die of war-related injuries every single day in Afghanistan. Then I want to write poems with him in the broken streets of Philadelphia and Detroit. […] THEN I want to write poems with him in the hills of Tennessee where my boyfriend Mark (aka Earth) was murdered. To this day, the police have written off his death as a suicide because they can’t be bothered to investigate a hate crime. No one but the president will do.” 

Weakness stalks in pride (PoemTalk #98)

James Weldon Johnson, 'O Southland!'


Herman Beavers, Salamishah Tillet, and Chris Mustazza joined Al Filreis to discuss James Weldon Johnson’s “O Southland!” Johnson made a recording of this and a few other poems late in his life in December 1935 at Columbia University, as part of a project led by George W. Hibbitt and W. Cabell Greet, lexicologists and scholars of American dialects. The sound of the recording was imprinted on an aluminum platter, dubbed to a reel-to-reel tape in the 1970s by the Library of Congress, and recently rediscovered by Chris Mustazza during investigations on behalf of PennSound. The James Weldon Johnson author page was added to PennSound and announced in Jacket2 in November 2014.

“O Southland!” was published in The Independent in 1907 and again in W. E. B. DuBois’s Horizon in 1908, and was probably first encountered by most of Johnson’s contemporary readers in his book Fifty years & other poems (1917) or in The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922), which Johnson himself edited. The PoemTalk conversation here speaks to the depth of Johnson’s rhetorical, idiomatic, metrical, and strategic influence on civil rights in later decades. The extent of this influence — and the centrality of Johnson’s “call” for us to hear “The mighty beat of onward feet” — seems to be disclosed fully only upon close listening; those “feet” are civic marchers and metapoetic notes toward the inexorable work of the poem as poem. The formal poem is not at all itself the “musty page” to which so many southerners “cling,” but stands as its new, adamant contradiction. Pictured above, left to right: Chris Mustazza, Salamishah Tillet, Herman Beavers.

PoemTalk episode #98 was directed and engineered by Zach Carduner and Ari Lewis (Ari has been on the Wexler Studio team but this was her first PoemTalk — we welcome Ari) and edited by Zach Carduner. Next time on PoemTalk Al will be joined by Joseph Massey, Michelle Gil Montero, and Julia Bloch to discuss four short poems by William Bronk. PoemTalk is cosponsored by PennSound, the Kelly Writers House, and the Poetry Foundation. You can subscribe to PoemTalk through iTunes.

Jaime Shearn Coan interviews Brian Teare

PennSound podcast #53

Photo of Brian Teare (right) by Ryan Collerd, courtesy of the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.


Brian Teare came back to the Kelly Writers House on October 30, 2015, to speak with Jaime Shearn Coan about his new collection of poetry, The Empty Form Goes All the Way to Heaven, published in 2015 by Ahsahta Press. Shearn Coan describes Teare’s collection as one that imagines “how to language what is un-languageable.” In this PennSound podcast, Teare and Shearn Coan talk about writing out of chronic illness, the book’s engagement with the work of American abstract painter Agnes Martin, and how poetry explores what sorts of shared communal narratives are possible.

Brian Teare, who conducted two interviews in the Wexler Studio in spring 2015 (Rachel Zolf, PennSound podcast #48, and Brent Armendinger, PennSound podcast #51), is an assistant professor of English at Temple University and the author of five books of poetry, including The Empty Form Goes All the Way to Heaven and Companion Grasses, as well as a number of chapbooks. He also makes books by hand in Philadelphia for his micropress, Albion Books.

Jaime Shearn Coan lives in Brooklyn, New York. His writings on dance and performance can be found regularly in The Brooklyn Rail. Jaime has been in residence at Poets House, VCCA, Mt. Tremper Arts, and the Saltonstall Foundation, and is the recipient of a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant. A PhD student in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY, Jaime teaches at Hunter College and serves as the 2015–2016 Curatorial Fellow at Danspace Project. His poetry chapbook, Turn It Over, was published by Argos Books in 2015.

A transcription of this conversation can be found here.

Into the Field: Angela Genusa

Angela Genusa is a writer and artist, formerly of Austin, Texas and now living in Louisiana. Her recent conceptual works include Simones Embassy (Eclipse Editions, 2015), Spam Bibliography (Troll Thread, 2013), Tender Buttons (Gauss PDF, 2013), and Jane Doe (Gauss PDF, 2013). Angelas writing has also appeared in Abraham Lincoln, Jacket2, The Claudius App, EOAGH, P-Queue, McSweeney’s, the Post-Digital Publishing Archive, and Library of the Printed Web. She is currently a member of the collaborative writing group Collective Task, and you can find more of her work on her personal website. We spoke via Skype in July 2014.

Articulate beyond walls (PoemTalk #97)

Larry Eigner, 'Again dawn,' 'a temporary language,' and 'unyielding rock'

Larry Eigner, photograph dated May 1959 (from the Poetry magazine archive).


Michael Kelleher, Daniel Bergmann, and Ron Silliman joined Al Filreis for a discussion of three poems by Larry Eigner. The first, “Again dawn,” was written in November 1959; the second, “A temporary language,” was composed on September 1 and 2 in 1970; and the third, “Unyielding / rock,” was written on May 31, 1971. These poems, respectively, can be found in the magnificent Stanford University Press four-volume Collected Poems, edited by Robert Grenier and Curtis Faville, volume 2, page 357; volume 3, page 970; volume 3, page 1,013. PennSound’s Eigner page has remarkable recordings of various occasions when Eigner read his poems. Our recording of “Again dawn” was made during Eigner’s appearance on KPFA radio in Berkeley with Jack Foley in March of 1994. Our recording of “A temporary language” and “Unyielding / rock” both come from an album entitled around new / sound daily / means: Selected Poems, produced and issued by S Press as their Tape No. 37, recorded by Michael Kohler at Swampscott, Massachusetts, July 1 and 11 in 1974.

As an aid to those who will hear the podcast without having the text of the poems in front of them and thus might have trouble discerning all the words in Eigner’s performances, we asked Ron Silliman to read the poems also. This is a decision made unlightly, and indeed we took time during the podcast to reflect on it. And, as Dan Bergmann suggests in his generous response, such considerations are themselves related to the fundamental issue Eigner raises in his verse: what it means to be “articulate / beyond walls.” Kate Herzlin, Dan’s aide who bespeaks what Dan spells on a spellboard, serves for him, he says, a role analogous momentarily to Ron’s as he rereads Eigner. And as for whether the idea of a necessarily “temporary language” supports or inhibits poetic immediacy, force, and accessibility — one of Eigner’s ongoing themes — Dan observes: “Immediacy and force are not my friends, but I don’t think clarity is better than truth.”

Michael Kelleher, who joined us at the Writers House having traveled from New Haven, where he is the director of the Windham Campbell Prizes at Yale University, announced — to our delight — that the suite of annual prizes will now include the category of poetry for the first time.

PoemTalk #97 was directed and engineered by Zach Carduner, Nick Seymour, and Adelaide Powell, and edited by Zach Carduner. Next time on PoemTalk, Herman Beavers, Salamishah Tillet, and Christopher Mustazza join Al in a discussion of a newly rediscovered 1935 recording of James Weldon Johnson’s “O Southland!”

References below are made to The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, ed. Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier (Stanford University Press, 2010), in four volumes.

Again dawn,” volume II, p. 359, written in November 1959 [click on image for a readable view]

“a temporary language,” volume III, p. 970, written September 1–2, 1970 [click on image for a readable view]

“unyielding rock,” volume III, p. 1013, written May 31, 1971 [click on image for a readable view]